News | Sept. 8, 2021

Communication systems are key to timely warnings during emergencies

By William H. Bullock Sr., Installation Emergency Manager DLA Installation Management Richmond

Communication is probably the most important critical issue that can profoundly impact the outcomes of an emergency. Communication is essential because, without effective, continuous, and consistent communication, all the other areas of emergency management would be unmanageable.

A mass warning notification system, or MWNS, is a series of platforms that send one-way messages to inform the workforce of an emergency.  Defense Logistics Agency Installation Management Richmond uses several systems to notify the Defense Supply Center Richmond workforce about emergencies: AtHoc, Giant Voice, and the internal public address systems.

AtHoc is an interactive warning system that allows installation leadership to inform people of urgent information such as base closures or delayed openings, shelter-in-place or seek shelter, or awareness of possible installation emergencies. The system notifies users via phone call, text message or email. This same system provides pop-up notifications to employees through desktop workstations

DLA employees on DSCR can download the Blackberry AtHoc app from either the Apple or Google app stores. This application is another option for those who don't want to enter their personal email and phone number in the AtHoc system.  The process can be found here: AtHoc Mobile App Instructions. (DLA Common Access Card required)

The Giant Voice system is a modern air-raid siren with the ability to play pre-recorded and live messages with high clarity over a massive area. The best usage of the Giant Voice is in providing mass notification for people in outdoor areas. The Giant Voice is not suitable for use within buildings and must not be used in place of an individual building mass notification system.

The Giant Voice is used for severe weather, like a tornado or hurricane, or an installation-wide emergency. The bottom line is, if you hear the Giant Voice and you do not hear 'This is a test' or “exercise, exercise, exercise,” you need to follow the instructions in the message immediately.

The internal public address system, IPA, is essential for fast and controlled response to emergencies, giving instructions and reducing panic.  IPA can remotely broadcast emergency notification messages through pre-recorded and live broadcast methods.

The interior of DLA buildings on DSCR have communication systems that allow for internal notification to the workforce to take action according to the emergency.

Another method of notification, not provided by DLA Installation Management Richmond, comes through a Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile application.  The application provides real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations nationwide, assistance locating open emergency shelters and disaster recovery centers in your area.  It also helps you prepare for disasters with a customizable emergency kit checklist, emergency family plan, and reminders.  It can be found at: FEMA Mobile App and Text Messages.